Appendix 3: General Blamey’s Appreciation of May 1945
TOP SECRET 18 May 45
PART I: APPRECIATION ON OPERATIONS OF THE AMF IN NEW GUINEA, NEW BRITAIN AND THE SOLOMON ISLANDS.
To conduct operations against the enemy with a view to:
(a) Destroying the enemy where this can be done with relatively light casualties, so as to free our territory and liberate the native population and thereby progressively reduce our commitments and free personnel from the Army;
(b) Where conditions are not favourable for the destruction of the enemy, to contain him in a restricted area by the use of a much smaller force, thus following the principle of economy.
2. American Operations
Prior to their relief by Australian forces, American operations in NEW GUINEA, NEW BRITAIN and the SOLOMONS were designed to secure the use of air bases from which to neutralise the enemy air power, and so permit a drive to the PHILIPPINES for the purpose of liberating them from the enemy. The Americans chose as objectives small areas suitable for airfield and port development, preferably in areas where the enemy strength was weak. Having seized these objectives, airfields and port facilities were constructed and a close perimeter was established around them for protection. No effort was made to seek out and destroy the enemy forces beyond these perimeters. A policy of by-passing the enemy and leaving large undefeated forces in their rear was followed until the PHILIPPINES were reached, when there was a change of policy on the part of GHQ.
3. Results of American Policy in Australian Territory
The reason given for the American policy of defending their airfields by close perimeters was that the enemy would “wither on the vine” in a few months. We are well into the second year of this policy and the enemy remains a strong, well organised fighting force. The result of the policy was that the enemy outside the perimeters was left in comparative peace and developed a large measure of “self-sufficiency” by cultivating gardens and employing natives to do so, importing seeds and supplying critical items such as medical supplies and signal stores by submarine and aircraft.
4. When MOROTAI had been seized, C-in-C SWPA stated that the enemy forces by-passed in Australian territories were strategically
impotent, but at this stage the following American forces were disposed in Australian territories:
TOROKINA Perimeter BOUGAINVILLE – A Corps of two Divisions
OUTER SOLOMON ISLANDS – One Division
NEW BRITAIN (GLOUCESTER) – One Division
NEW GUINEA (AITAPE-TADJI) – A Corps of two Divisions plus one Regimental Combat Team.
During this period the Americans were mainly confined within their perimeters and left the bulk of the patrolling to AIB, ANGAU and FIJIAN troops. At TOROKINA and AITAPE the enemy attacked the American perimeters in strength but when beaten off they were not pursued and destroyed, but allowed to re-form and pursue their policy of developing “self-sufficiency” undisturbed, thus making it possible for them to resume the offensive in future at their own free will.
5. On the initiation of planning for the PHILIPPINES campaign, GHQ SWPA requested the relief of the above American forces by equivalent Australian forces but, on my representations that such large forces were excessive, agreed to a reduction and the following Australian forces were used to relieve the American forces:
BOUGAINVILLE and the OUTER SOLOMON ISLANDS – A Corps of one Division and two Infantry Brigade Groups
NEW BRITAIN – One Division, since reduced to a Division of two Infantry Brigades
NEW GUINEA (AITAPE) – One Division.
This shows a reduction on the forces used by the Americans of the equivalent of three divisions.
6. The deployment of such substantial Australian forces, under orders of GHQ, to contain these by-passed forces refutes any claim that can be raised as to their strategic impotence! Because the offensive power of these by-passed enemy forces had not been destroyed it was necessary to protect the American bases in the SOLOMONS and in NEW GUINEA with strong forces, as these bases were vital for the conduct of the PHILIPPINES campaign.
7. On reaching the PHILIPPINES the “by-passing” policy of GHQ changed, and it was decided to free all the many of these islands completely from the enemy, although only a few of the bigger islands will be developed as bases for future operations against JAPAN. However, the reason given for the complete destruction of the enemy in these islands is to ensure the security of the bases in the PHILIPPINES. It would thus appear that the difference in GHQ policy between the PHILIPPINES and the rest of the SOUTH-WEST PACIFIC AREA is based on political rather than military grounds.
8. Just as it is necessary to destroy the JAPANESE in the PHILIPPINES, so it is necessary that we should destroy the enemy in Australian territories where the conditions are favourable for such action, and so liberate the natives from JAPANESE domination. Were we to wait until
JAPAN was finally crushed, it could be said that the Americans, who had previously liberated the PHILIPPINES, were responsible for the final liberation of the natives in Australian territories, with the inevitable result that our prestige both abroad and in the eyes of the natives would suffer much harm.
As this question and its consequences are further considered in my reply to the Acting Minister’s comment on the conduct of the campaigns by First Aust Army ... and in consideration of Part II, para 2, Course C of this submission, I do not propose to repeat the details in this paper.
PART II: POLICY OF AMF ON RELIEVING US FORCES IN NEW GUINEA, NEW BRITAIN AND THE SOLOMON ISLANDS
1. Solomon Islands
There were three courses of action left open to me on taking over from the US Forces. These were as follows:
Course A To take over the American defences within their perimeters as they then existed and by passive defence to protect the airfields and base installations contained within the perimeters.
Course B To go for an all out offensive against enemy strongholds with full scale air and naval support when the latter could be developed.
Course C By aggressive patrolling to gain information of enemy strengths and dispositions, about which little was known by American formations, and by systematically driving him from his garden areas and supply bases, forcing him into starvation and destroying him where found. Eventually to bring about his total destruction.
2. Summary of above Courses
Course A: To commit any troops to a passive role of defence, and particularly Australian troops, is to destroy quickly their morale, create discontent and decrease their resistance to sickness and disease. By remaining within American perimeters the defence of our airfields and bases would possibly have been achieved. The enemy would have been allowed to develop his self-sufficiency at will, to continue to receive limited essential supplies by air and submarine, to continue his domination of the natives and to inflict a steady flow of casualties on us by sporadic raids and local infiltration, a form of warfare to which he is prone. This course would lower the prestige of the Australian nation throughout the world and particularly would, in the native mind, lower the prestige of the Government to such an extent that it might be difficult to recover on the termination of hostilities.
Course B: The dispositions of the enemy throughout the SOLOMONS and NEW GUINEA were such that his destruction could not have been achieved by major operations at a few points. His forces had been dispersed to develop garden areas and to gain maximum domination of the natives whom he has used to aid him in his policy of “self-sufficiency”
and in active operations against our forces. Major offensive operations with full scale air and naval support at such points as WEWAK and BUIN would have given us local control of these places just as it did at AITAPE and TOROKINA. But we would still have been obliged to follow him from the shore into the jungle to destroy him. The necessary naval forces could not be made available. The directive of C-in-C SWPA did not allow of this course.
NEW BRITAIN presented a different problem to NEW GUINEA and the SOLOMONS. Here we were faced with a force of approximately 56,000 troops, mainly located in the area immediately surrounding RABAUL with strong patrols operating throughout the GAZELLE PENINSULA and along both coasts to the SOUTH of it. The enemy defences were strong and the enemy themselves well equipped and fed. A major offensive operation with the forces at our disposal was impossible.
Course C: Following the relief by First Aust Army of the US Forces in November 1944 it was found that information of enemy strengths and dispositions was extremely limited. Apart from the enemy forces immediately in front of them the Americans could supply very little information. The morale of the air forces was reduced because their activity had been aimless. Bombing missions were carried out against areas which may or may not have contained enemy and no results of the bombing could be given by ground forces. The first task therefore, while awaiting the final deployment of the army, which was not completed until March 1945, was to gain all possible information of the enemy by active patrolling. Active patrolling enables the offensive spirit to be maintained for possible future operations and by constantly harassing the enemy gives to the troops a moral superiority over him. The information obtained showed the enemy to be distributed in definite areas in the SOLOMONS and WEWAK–AITAPE–MAPRIK areas.
To remain inactive for months while awaiting the development of full scale naval and air support is a negation of all military teaching and common sense. It reduces the morale of the troops and leads to disciplinary troubles as seen during the long stay of our troops on the mainland. It is a colossal waste of manpower, material and money. In the tropics it reduces rapidly the resistance to tropical diseases and wastage of men increases rapidly. It encourages the enemy and gives him increasing influence and control over the natives.
The only sound course of action left open was that indicated in Course C. It was therefore decided that the operations of the First Aust Army would consist of obtaining information, probing the enemy’s positions and carrying out offensive operations with small forces with a view to seeking out and destroying the enemy where found.
The situation in NEW BRITAIN differed from the other areas. As it was not considered possible to destroy the enemy force at RABAUL with the forces available, it was decided to drive the enemy patrols back into the GAZELLE PENINSULA and then regain control of the major
portion of NEW BRITAIN and contain a large force in the northern end of the island with a considerably smaller one. This is in accordance with the military principle: “A detachment from the main forces is justified if it contains a force superior to itself.” In the situation in which I found myself taking over from the Americans, the Japanese, on their side, in certain areas justified this principle.
3. Plan of Operations – New Guinea (Wewak–Aitape Area)
In November 1944 an American Army Corps was concentrated in and around AITAPE, strongly entrenched behind barbed wire with the exception of one regiment which was on the DRINIUMOR River. AIB patrols were operating to the SOUTH but, through lack of support by ground troops which had been denied to them by the Americans, they were forced to yield large areas to Japanese forces.
The enemy strength in the area was approximately 24,000 to 27,000. He had suffered heavy losses in attacks on the Americans, but retained his organisation in three divisions effectively. He was spreading rapidly into the fertile and thickly populated country to the SOUTH of the TORRICELLI MOUNTAINS, where he lived largely on native gardens. In the coastal area he had considerable stocks of material in WEWAK and along the coast to BUT. Single submarines and aircraft were getting in regularly with urgently required medical and ordnance supplies.
The plan accepted was an advance east on two axes by 6th Division, operating in this area. Firstly along the coast to destroy his forces and supplies and to prevent as far as possible his movement inland and to seize WEWAK to cut his inland forces off from this area and to prevent further supplies reaching him by sea and air. Secondly to drive him from the garden area SOUTH of the TORRICELLIS, to destroy his capacity to supply his forces while destroying his organisation and personnel.
4. New Britain
5 Aust Division relieved 40th US Division in NEW BRITAIN. 40th Division was established at CAPE GLOUCESTER on the western end of the island and 360 miles from RABAUL. Detachments were at CAPE HOSKINS on the NORTH coast and ARAWE on the SOUTH. There was no contact between US and JAPANESE forces but AIB patrols were operating towards the GAZELLE PENINSULA.
5th Division landed at JACQUINOT BAY, 160 miles advanced beyond ARAWE, which, at the time, was the nearest anchorage to RABAUL unoccupied by the enemy. One battalion relieved the US Detachment at CAPE HOSKINS.
The plan adopted was to advance by patrols along both coasts and enemy patrols were gradually pushed back until the enemy was confined to the comparatively limited area of the GAZELLE PENINSULA.
The present situation is that some 40,000 enemy troops are being contained in the GAZELLE PENINSULA by two Australian brigades. Our losses have been 40 killed and missing and 115 wounded. 220 Japanese dead have been counted; the number of dead removed and the wounded
are unknown. Many natives and large areas of country have been returned to our control.
5. Solomon Islands
When 2 Aust Corps, consisting of 3 Division and two brigade groups, took over the responsibility of the northern SOLOMONS from the 14 US Corps of three divisions in November 1944, the situation was that the bulk of American troops were concentrated within a perimeter at TOROKINA with a small force operating along the overland route to NUMA NUMA and a further force on the JABA RIVER. One US Division was occupying neighbouring islands on which there were no Japanese. This division was relieved by one brigade from 2 Aust Corps and the force has since been reduced to one battalion.
The enemy strength was estimated at 18/19,000 and they were disposed in groups throughout BOUGAINVILLE, SHORTLAND ISLAND and BUKA ISLAND, the main concentration being in SOUTH BOUGAIN-VILLE. In the year in which they had not been attacked, they had achieved a high degree of “self-sufficiency” by gardening and fishing. Active patrolling operations were commenced with the arrival of the first brigades in three directions. To the EAST on the NUMA TRAIL – to the NORTH towards SORAKEN and SOUTH beyond the JABA RIVER.
As a result of reconnaissance it was decided to make a stronger thrust to the SOUTH. This operation was carried out on a carefully prepared plan by advancing in small bodies and forcing the enemy to action. Already our troops have seized much of the garden area and driven on to the HONGORAI RIVER where the Jap is still resisting in an endeavour to prevent our further advance.
The move over the NUMA NUMA TRAIL has progressed to a point where our troops are overlooking NUMA NUMA and the adjacent coast line.
To the NORTH, SORAKEN PENINSULA and an island off the coast have been cleared of the enemy and our troops are now in control of the only known route from SORAKEN to the NORTH coast, thus cutting the enemy in the BUKA PASSAGE from those to the SOUTH. The whole northern sector is in process of being cleared.
A summary showing the comparison of casualties in all areas is attached. The increased prestige of the Australians in the native mind brought about since the commencement of offensive operations by the regaining of control of large areas of country and the releasing of thousands of natives from JAPANESE domination has been considerable. We have so far carried out our obligation to liberate a large number of our native subjects.
The release of natives from JAPANESE control has lightened the task of First Army by making them available for service in native battalions, AIB and carrier lines.
COMPARISON CASUALTIES, ETC. TO MAY 18, 1945
|Counted Dead||Estimated Uncounted Dead||Estimated Dead from Attrition*||Killed and Missing||Wounded|
|NEW GUINEA (6 Aust Div)||3,938||1,200||6,600||267||542|
|NEW BRITAIN (5 Aust Div)||220||100||3,700||49||131|
|BOUGAINVILLE (2 Aust Corps)||3,800||1,300||2,500||257||760|
* This cannot be considered reliable.
No estimate can be made of enemy wounded. It is his custom to remove dead and wounded from the battlefield whenever he can.
At the same ratio as that suffered by us, viz., 1 killed 3 wounded, the Japanese wounded in relation to counted dead would be 23,874. It is believed that this would be unduly high.
PART III: FUTURE POLICY
1. Dispositions First Aust Army as at 12 May 45
HQ 2 Aust Corps
3 Aust Division of three Infantry Brigades
Two Infantry Brigades (less a Battalion) – one Battalion outer islands
One Native Battalion, Pacific Islands Regiment
AIB Guerilla Forces and ANGAU patrols
New Guinea –
6 Aust Division
One Native Battalion, Pacific Islands Regiment
AIB Guerilla Forces and ANGAU patrols
8 Aust Infantry Brigade Group
AIB Guerilla Forces and ANGAU patrols
5 Aust Division, consisting of two Infantry Brigades
One Native Battalion, Pacific Islands Regiment
AIB Guerilla Forces and ANGAU patrols
New Ireland –
In addition two more battalions of Pacific Islands Regiment are being raised and should be available for active operations in the latter part of the year.
2. Enemy Forces Estimated
|26 Nov 44||12 May 45|
|NEW GUINEA||24,000 to 27,000||12,600*|
* Data not reliable.
3. For the reasons given in Part II it is proposed to follow the existing policy of destroying the enemy in BOUGAINVILLE and NEW GUINEA with the object of liquidating our commitments and thereby making a progressive reduction in the strength of our forces engaged in these areas.
When enemy organisation is sufficiently destroyed and his numbers reduced, it is proposed to retain the minimum of Australian troops and to use the Pacific Islands Regiment with AIB and ANGAU elements to develop partisan fighting until the enemy is completely annihilated.
4. In NEW BRITAIN, where the reduction of RABAUL would require the use of major forces, it is proposed to continue the present economic policy of containing the enemy, but to review this policy when circumstances permit.
FORECAST OF FUTURE OPERATIONS
With our present aggressive policy the AIB guerillas and partisan natives are becoming increasingly effective in killing off more JAPANESE and driving them from their more isolated gardens, thus increasing the attrition rate, and forcing the enemy to move and work in greater concentrations. When the enemy is dealt with sufficiently SOUTH of the HONGORAI RIVER and in the BUIN area, a reduction in our forces from five to two infantry brigades should be possible. Thereafter a further progressive reduction should be possible until our force can be reduced to one infantry brigade and two native battalions, Pacific Islands Regiment, and, ultimately, to two native battalions, Pacific Islands Regiment.
6. New Guinea
When the enemy is driven from the coast, continuation of present operations should so reduce the enemy strength that a force of one infantry brigade group and two native battalions, Pacific Islands Regiment, together with partisan guerillas, should be sufficient to deal with the remnants of the enemy. After the last formed enemy bodies have been broken up two native battalions, Pacific Islands Regiment, should be sufficient to eradicate the final remnants.
7. New Britain
To contain the large enemy force in the GAZELLE PENINSULA, a force of one division of two infantry brigades, one native battalion, Pacific Islands Regiment, and AIB guerilla parties will be required together with a reserve of one infantry brigade, held at a convenient centre, in case the
enemy should embark on offensive operations to break out of the GAZELLE PENINSULA.
AIB parties and guerilla activities to be conducted on a minor scale. The policy to be followed in regard to NEW BRITAIN and NEW IRELAND will require reconsideration later.
By the end of the year it is hoped that our force can be reduced by two divisions consisting of five infantry brigade groups. If this hope is realised, the forces required will be:
WEWAK-AITAPE – One Infantry Brigade Group
BOUGAINVILLE – One Infantry Brigade Group
NEW BRITAIN – One Division of two Infantry Brigades
RESERVE – One Infantry Brigade
ALL AREAS – Ancillary and Base Troops.
This is subject to developments in NEW BRITAIN and NEW IRELAND.
(Sgd) T. A. BLAMEY
18th May, 1945.